Implementing regular family mealtimes may be difficult, but determining the best strategy for your family to be able to make shared meals possible will benefit your family in more ways than one!
Sharing a family meal provides an experience that touches all of our senses – sight, touch, taste, smell and listening to warm laughter or good conversation. Family meals help provide a regular, consistent opportunity to create a shared experience that is meaningful and offers a sense of belonging to all. Research has shown that regular and meaningful family meals offer a large variety of benefits to both children and parents.
Some of the benefits of family mealtime include:
1. Communication Skills
Family meals make a positive impact on young children’s language acquisition and literacy development. Having uninterrupted conversations at the dinner table can expand children’s vocabulary and reading abilities regardless of the family’s socioeconomic status!
2. Emotional Development
“Mealtime conversation brings the family together and promotes positive self-esteem in children” (Bligh, Garen, & Rosales, 2017). Having consistent family meals provides structure for children allowing them to feel more safe and secure within the family unit. Having meals together is a time when children can see how parents interact with each other, solve problems, express emotions, and communicate with their spouse. When this
interaction is positive, it models healthy relationships and helps children develop these
3. Promotes Health
Family meals furnish a meaningful opportunity to provide a role model for healthy eating. Parents and other adults can help model eating moderate portion sizes, tasting new foods or stopping when full. Also, they can use family mealtimes to encourage courtesy and other social manners.
4. Improved Family Relationships
Family meals give a meaningful opportunity for family members to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed setting. The conversation around the dinner table allows give and take among family members and the chance to cultivate attitudes of patience and respect in communication.
There are many effective strategies that can help create a habit of eating family meals
together in order to reap the above-mentioned benefits:
- Plan ahead
- Choose a regular time
- Involve all family members in preparation and cleanup
- Turn off the TV
- Leave electronic devices turned off or in another room
- Eat around a table
- Keep the conversation pleasant
- Be flexible
- Try family mealtime for breakfast or lunch
- Avoid arguing and discipline
- Create an atmosphere of happiness and togetherness
BUT most importantly – Do what works best for your individual family.
If eating meals together is new for your family, set a realistic goal that all family members agree on. Start small by eating one or two meals together per week, and then work up to at least four or five meals together each week. Working together as a family can help establish a regular family mealtime habit and potential positive benefits and outcomes.
Research and information provided by Cindy Nelson and Makendra Goff.
- Bligh, M., Garen, A., & Rosales, A. (2017). Why Family Meals Matter. Retrieved from https://www.healthyeating.org/HealthyEating/Meals-Recipes/Family-MealPlanning/Article-Viewer/Article/314/Why-FamilyMeals-Matter.aspx
- Brotherson, S. (2009). The Big Benefits of Family Meals. Retrieved from North Dakota State University https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/eatsmart/eat-smart.-playhard.-magazines-1/2009-eat-smart-play-hardmagazine/test-item
- University of Florida (n.d.). The Importance of Family Dinners. Retrieved from http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topic/families _and_consumers/family_dinners.sshtm
- American College of Pediatricians (2014). The Benefits of the Family Table. Retrieved from https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/positionstatements/parenting-issues/the-benefits-of-thefamily-table